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General Mills: The c-store challenge is to capture consumers in three minutes

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

General Mills' Pillsbury Mini's range hits on consumer needs at breakfast, says convenience category development manager
General Mills' Pillsbury Mini's range hits on consumer needs at breakfast, says convenience category development manager

Related tags Meal Retailing Marketing

Consumers are in and out of convenience stores in less than three minutes, so it’s a big challenge to develop and place products that meet their needs, says the category development head at General Mills Convenience.

Kelly Fulford, senior category development manager for Convenience & Foodservice, placed second in our Personality of the Year 2014 competition with 17.04% of the votes and BakeryandSnacks.com caught up exclusively with her to find out more about working in the c-store category.

“The challenge for c-stores is that their consumers are in and out of the store so quickly, in many cases less than three minutes. How do you ensure you have the right products in the right places to meet the needs of consumers?”​ she said.

For the General Mills Convenience team, therefore, the goal was to work with retail partners to enable educated decisions on product assortment, key categories and store organization to fit shopper trends, she said.

“For me, category management is all about providing unbiased, objective assortment and merchandizing guidance to generate total snack category lift, incremental growth and increased distribution, thus creating a win-win scenario for the customer, retailer and snack manufacturers.”

Packaged bakery, salty snacks and breakfast

Fulford said there was strong growth in salty snacks across convenience channels, likely driven by the fact 50% of snack purchases were unplanned. The breakfast category was also fast emerging as consumers sought out portable, healthier snacks for the morning, she said, prompting opportunities in packaged bakery.

“The packaged bakery category is large and growing, yet hasn’t seen a lot of innovation or excitement in recent years. Overall, the packaged bakery category is showing strong growth – up almost 10% versus last year,”​ she said.

General Mills Convenience would enter the category in April this year, she said, with a Pillsbury Mini’s range that she said hit on key consumer needs in the breakfast space.

“Whether its donuts, pastries, danishes or muffins, consumers are most likely going to look for a packaged bakery item at breakfast to fill them up and satisfy their sweet craving. Another key decision factor consumers are looking for at breakfast is convenience.”

Innovation and collaboration for success

Fulford said developing and launching such products was a result of collaboration – internally and with retailers – but also innovation that matched the needs of the category as a whole.

“It is important for retailers to place their bets on the right innovation, selecting flavor profiles and offerings that are incremental to the category. Retailers also don’t want to lose sight of the importance of maintaining core SKUs – and maintaining the right balance of core and new products.”

Asked what others could learn from her achievements over the past year at General Mills Convenience & Foodservice, she said: “It’s all about nurturing relationships, internally and externally. I’m committed and invested in meeting and exceeding the needs of my customers. In addition to that, you have to have fun and have a passion for what you do. A good sense of humor helps too – you have to roll with the punches and not take yourself too seriously.”

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